Friday, October 02, 2015

Replicant Army Zeta

"Bombing to support a genocidal tyrant isn't the same as bombing a terrorist organisation...  pursuing a malign policy for malign goals is worse. Hence, yes, there is a difference in reactions... You must see the quantifiable difference". 

So says a long-time reader in response to this post, a bashed-out ramble about our noticeably lesser levels of indulgence for Russian ultraviolence than we display for our own.

Taking these comments in context, I'm inclined to agree.  There are notable and marked differences between our military hijinks and those of the Russian armed forces.

For one thing, Bad Vlad Putin - a vicious cartoon KGB gangster straight out of Bond-villain central casting - has only just embarked on his first murderous death rampage in the region.

We, however, are now approaching a decade-and-a-half's worth of trying to make the Middle East and north Africa sit still and behave by repeatedly blatting several countries with thousands upon thousands of missiles.

Are Vlad's war aims much worse than ours?  Well, sure!  He's bombing one crew of nutty jihadists and a tiny clique of possibly-theoretical secular liberal warriors at the behest of the mass-murdering Syrian dictatorship, which is itself a vicious tyranny that tortures dissidents to death.

We, on the other hand, are blasting fuck out of an even nastier army of mass-murdering death-cultists on behalf of the Iraqi government, which machine-guns protestors and only tortures its dissidents mostly to death, while we quietly pass boatloads of cutting-edge explosives to the Sauds for use on Yemeni civilians.

So you see, it's really quite a stark moral contrast. 

Joking aside though, that post was mainly about the welcome return of open suspicion and ridicule for great power "interventions".  Bad Vlad's ludicrous pronouncements this week have been met with open mockery, and the Russian armed forces' claims to nobility have been torn to shreds in a riot of feral press hostility.  We are, in short, treating Russian military malfeasance with the appropriate level of credulity, i.e. none at all.

The difficulty with this is that it makes our own boot-licking, self-fondling fluffery of "the Coalition" - since that's the latest fruity name that we're giving what is basically the American government and its air force - look every bit as comical as the Russian media's supine surrender to Vlad.

You'd think that, after we've been bombing huge tracts of the planet for this long with nothing at all to show for it but ever more carnage and chaos, we might finally be shamed into maybe... just... shutting the fuck up, for five seconds.

Not so.  Instead, the Americans fret about Russian malevolence supposedly "inciting extremism" in the Middle East, as if US armed forces weren't still locked in combat with an army of brain-eating Islamic zombies... Themselves the product of America's own recent military stupidity.  Such a statement would be met with open hilarity, if it weren't quite so serious.

Consider - ourselves and the Americans know for an absolute certainty that our current strategy of drone-bombing hell out of buildings and vehicles in pursuit of nominated targets occasionally kills large numbers of civilians - wiped-out wedding parties, unlucky car passengers, and so on.  (Update - and the occasional party of Medicins Sans Frontiers clinic staff).

We know we are going to kill innocent people while we're splattering our way through the latest batch of Al-Qaeda Number-Three-Most-Wanteds, or whatever other terribly critical, high-value target we're aiming at - and yet we do it anyway.

Civilian casualties have long since become a normal aspect of our strategy, a regretable but supposedly unavoidable expense, factored in to a well-calculated cost.  These incidents happen so frequently that we can no longer reasonably claim that they're unexpected, or even really kid on that they're unintentional.  They are militarily acceptable, politically acceptable, morally acceptable.  This is what we do.

And this might even be fine, if there was some reason to believe that these people were dying to effect some grand strategic achievement, to orchestrate an endgame to this war or that.  Reader, it is not part of such a strategy.  The plan, just as it was in 2007, is to keep killing motherfuckers until the remainder settle down, or until there are no motherfuckers left to kill.

In 2007, complaints about this wacky plan were met with firm tickings off about the dangers of "moral relativism" and "equivalence", the type of patter that is supposed to emphasise our national rectitude but is almost always deployed in service of the firm message - It's fine when we do it.  

In 2015, the message is unchanged, and the relentless warfare is no closer to an endgame.  You think our dumbass bombing campaigns are morally problematic?  Why, you must be one of those gosh-darned relativists who can't see the difference between Our Boys and Ol' Journalist-Shootin' Putin!  

What this tells us is that fourteen years into our great, superviolent war on whatever, we have learned no lessons at all, and that almost nobody has been held to account for their misdeeds.  It tells me that there is literally no catastrophe so great that it can dent our endless faith in our own towering virtue; that there is no pile of rubble and corpses so high that it can't be mounted for use as a podium to issue stern lectures upon comparative morality.

It baffles me to say it, but it means that for some people, being a better human than Vladimir Putin is a real achievement in itself.

I mean, I'm taller than my cat, but I don't expect anyone to congratulate me and suck my dick for it.

Anyway, I raise all this, just as a little reminder of the context in which these grand morality plays about our wildly-different military methods and objectives play out.  I don't expect to change any minds, nor to inspire anything more than mild annoyance.

We can be sure though that ten thousand years from now, while Her Majesty's Royal Drone Force battles the resurgent 17th Glorious Ball-Peen Caliphate or whatever on the plains of Mesopotamia, some joker somewhere will still be explaining that actually, this war is not at all like the last, and that there is a vast moral difference between our war aims and those of Replicant Army Zeta.


septicisle said...

If anything, it's actually worse than what you say. Our entire Syria policy, from almost as soon as the various jihadist groupings became the de facto armed opposition to Assad (it becomes ever more deranged to refer to the Free Syrian Army as being a thing, and the few "secular moderates" still fighting ally with the jihadists routinely anyway) has been to try and maintain a murderous stalemate. We don't want Assad to fall, as in the very best case scenario the country will become Libya part two. In the worst, the jihadists will massacre the minorities that haven't fled and then embark on properly slaughtering each other. Seeing the Syrians have still got some major firepower, i.e. helicopters and war planes, we'd probably want to destroy those pretty sharpish in either case. Far better instead to let our allies do their thing in arming whoever they feel like, reasonably safe in the knowledge that Assad can probably hang on given his air power and support from Iran.

As for the civilians caught in the middle, they can either die or go and live in camps in neighbouring countries. Only it's now reached the point where the ungrateful shits have cottoned on to our great war plan, i.e. there isn't one, and have decided as the war isn't going to end any time soon it's time to cut their losses and move on. Happily, pretty much all the nations majorly involved in the let's bomb Islamic State and arm the rebels and see what happens fandango are either refusing to let any refugees in, or on the opposite side of the world to Syria. Ourselves, France, Jordan and Turkey are pretty much the only nations doing anything on that score, and frankly ours and France's contribution is risible.

So yes, Putin is a bastard, his plan is just as insane as ours has been and he cares even less about civilian casualties than we do. But then we've been indifferent towards those very same civilians for how long is it now, 14 years? If you really wanted to you could take it all the way back to 1991, where this grim farce really began.

The supporting a genocidal tyrant jibe would have more effect also if there was any option forthcoming from those critics other than carrying on doing what we're doing, which is hope above hope that the bloody stalemate continues so that the genuinely genocidal in the true sense of word jihadists don't become the victors. They don't want to commit ground forces, quite rightly, they haven't presented a plan to get rid of Assad that wouldn't result in the jihadists taking over, probably because there isn't one, and yet the carping goes on.

Shorter version of the above: we're all covered in shit, and yet the slinging goes on regardless.

ejh said...

I mean, I'm taller than my cat, but I don't expect anyone to congratulate me

Well no, the real achievement is surely the cat's, given that they can leap higher than you can despite the massive disparity in your favour. Also note how they manage to squeeze an enormous brain into a cranial capacity which on amateur inspection is much smaller than yours or mine.

flyingrodent said...

Shorter version of the above: we're all covered in shit, and yet the slinging goes on regardless.

Yes, my take on it has always been that of the three possible outcomes:

1) Assad overthrown, the rebels win outright with whatever horrible reprisals will inevitably follow;

2) Assad wins outright, with a series of blood-curdling reprisals and horrible repression, or

3) The war grinds on forever, grinding down lots of nasty violent military factions from various countries that we're entirely happy to see being ground down, plus lots of suffering civilians

...We hoped for 1), but have shown that we're entirely happy for 3) to continue indefinitely, in the hope of forever fending off 2). That's why the US President set terms for an outcome that are utterly incompatible with 2) and has been feeding weapons and materiel into the warzone throughout.

This is why I always stare in disbelief at wails about how Syria is an example of "non-intervention", as if the US had sat around doing nothing, rather than stirring the pot. And as regards ISIS, as if it wasn't basically a continuation of the Iraq War by many of the same people, across many of the same battlefields, using the same weapons and tactics.

the real achievement is surely the cat's

You can rest assured that the cat doesn't want for praise.

Smut Clyde said...

there is no pile of rubble and corpses so high that it can't be mounted for use as a podium to issue stern lectures upon comparative morality.

I feel obliged to make a joke about a 'Dais ex Machina', although my heart isn't really in it.

Chris said...

I've no love for Putin, but at least the Russians are in Syria with the permission of its government. The Americans are invaders.